Social Distancing: Waterkeeper Style
We’re all in this together – even when we’re apart!
As our staff works remotely, we continue our work for cleaner water, protection of local wetlands, and more resilient communities across the Lower Galveston Bay watershed. Just this week, Texas Southern University graduate student Naomi Walker joined Bayou City Waterkeeper as its Mapping Water Injustices fellow. From her laptop, Naomi will use GIS and other analytical tools and help us root out systematic failures and injustices in public infrastructure within our watershed.
Over the next couple of weeks of social distancing, join us in exploring and celebrating our waters, wetlands, and the resiliency of coastal communities, near and far. Fortunately, we can enjoy these beautiful spring days and benefit from our watershed’s natural wonder, even if we need to space ourselves from our fellow humans for the time being. Whether you’re looking for a new solo experience or one to share with your family, we’ve weaved together a list of activities you can do to learn more about your backyard bayous.
Mo, joined by his wife Jillian, noted: Nature spotting in our own backyard exceeded my expectations! We saw plenty of fish, one Osprey with its catch: a fish, lots of cormorants, song birds, a few turtles, bountiful wild flowers, and historically huge trees.
Are there places you hope to explore in your backyard?
Jillian and Mo kayak Brays Bayou with Kristen, BCWK Legal Director
Kristen, our Legal Director, has been taking her 15-month old daughter on daily bike rides down the trails along Buffalo Bayou.
Getting outdoors has been essential as we figure out to balance our work with the new full-time job of caring for a toddler. My daughter and I use these bike rides to chill out, enjoy the breeze, and spot birds down on the bayou.
Jordan, our Executive Director, is currently enjoying the wildflower bloom in the upper coastal prairies near Waller County. With lots of small ponds and bugs a-plenty, she and her husband are taking advantage of beautiful spring weather to catch-and-release black bass.
Go explore our hidden gems from northern Harris County down to Galveston Bay.
- Houston Parks Board – Bayou Greenways: Providing walking and biking trails, and kayak launches along Brays, Greens, Halls, Hunting, Sims, and White Oak Bayous, as well as the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.
- Buffalo Bayou Parks and Trails: The Buffalo Bayou Trail, also referred to as the Sandy Reed Memorial Trail, cuts across Houston and meanders through the many parks that line the waterway, as well as the historical Glenwood Cemetery. It stretches 15 miles and is fully paved, offering an outdoor escape.
- The Sabine Promenade: Two miles of hike-and-bike trails link the Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive bayou trails to Sesquicentennial Park behind Wortham Theater Center and the Northside Trail at the University of Houston-Downtown.
- Sesquicentennial Park: The 22-acre bayou-side park was established in 1986 to commemorate the 150 year anniversary of the founding of Houston.
- Buffalo Bend Nature Park: A beautiful park that features three wetland ponds, a cistern, native plantings, pond overlook, interpretive signage and hike and bike trails.
- Memorial Park: The park and its trails are open to the public; however, onsite maintenance has been reduced. Enjoy the cycling and mountain bike trails, or the 3-mile Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail.
- Jesse Jones Park: Hosted by Harris County Precinct 4, the 312-acre nature preserve open daily to visitors free of charge. The park features over eight miles of paved, handicap-friendly pedestrian trails and several unpaved primitive trails. The Spring Creek Greenway, with over 16 miles of paved trail system along Spring Creek, is also accessible from the park’s Judy Overby Bell Trail and Jones Bender Trail.
- Artist Boat’s Helen & Edward Oppenheimer Bird Observatory: Enjoy 7 days a week the 150-foot boardwalk, and elevated viewing and seating platform of the Observatory. Walk the 1/2 mile trail as you soak up the beauty of Galveston’s wetlands.
- Houston Arboretum: While the Nature Center is closed to the public, you can visit one of the thirteen Arboretum trails! If you want to add a bit of adventure to your trip, try out a Habitat Hike or our Forest Detective Scavenger Hunt (instructions can be found on their website).
- Houston Audubon’s Bolivar Flats Sanctuary: People are encouraged to walk along the beach and enjoy watching the birds and other wildlife that is protected here. Bolivar Flats is a unique area combining salt marsh, mud flats and beach, with each habitat being quite different from the other.
- Bayou Land Conservancy’s Spring Creek Nature Trail: The Nature Trail is a 14-mile, natural-surface path that follows Spring Creek and was built largely by volunteers. It is open to hikers, bikers, birders, and other nature lovers. Download the free audio-tour for an interactive and educational experience!
- Always observe Center for Disease Control’s minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from other people. Keep your party as small as possible. Practice it and know what it looks like. Keep it as you walk, bike or hike.
- Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to heading to the park — wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, do not use trails if you have symptoms, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, etc.
- Bring your own water bottle and refrain from using water fountains.
- Note that trail and park users may find public restrooms closed. Be prepared before you leave and time outings so that you are not dependent on public restrooms.
- Avoid using playground equipment or coming into contact with surfaces such as benches or exercise equipment that others may have used.
- Bring a suitable trash bag. Leave no trash, take everything out with you. Do your part to reduce trash onsite.
Learn & Play
For those times we need to stay at home, here are some kid-friendly resources to learn about the environment and our region!
- National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick: Stuck indoors? You can check out all the Ranger Rick magazines, as well as other fun activities to do at home.
- TPWD Junior Ranger Program: Print out a Jr. Ranger Journal and explore your backyard or a state park online!
- Here in Houston: Check out these Houston-based education tools to learn more about our watershed and what makes our region special.
- Virtual Zoo Animal Cameras: Get close with six creature features from our own Houston Zoo!
- Virtual Aquarium: Learn about all the different fish and marine mammals at the Texas State Aquarium.
Rising by Elizabeth Rush
In this beautifully-written examination of how people respond to a changing climate, Elizabeth Rush visits communities across the United States who are affected by rising sea levels and storm surges. Rush believes retreat from our coasts is necessary, but recognizes that each community must have the power to decide its own fate. In evaluating how we may continue to live in coastal environments, Rush gives space to individual community voices and repeatedly recognizes how important wetlands are to our long-term resilience.
Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal
As a mother and her son paddle a canoe around a pond, they see animals like a great blue heron, a turtle, and a beaver enjoying the water, too. Recommended for children ages 5 to 8, but enjoyable for adults, too, this book inspires a sense of wonder about the wildlife who gather around the water and the fish and plants found under the surface. Read a copy of the book on youtube.
Learn the Song of Our Land by John Jacob
In this 2014 article published in Rice Architecture’s CITE magazine, John Jacob, a member of our Advisory Board and expert on Texas wetlands, celebrates the landscapes that make our region unique, like coastal prairies, salt marshes, and upland and bottomland forests. He cautions that the window for saving many of these ecosystems, which have been fragmented by rapid real estate development, is closing, and offers advice on how we may rise to the occasion.
Our Planet on Netflix
A beautiful documentary featuring nature’s exquisite beauty, Our Planet goes one step further and examines how climate change impacts our environment and our lives. Be sure to watch Episode 4: Coastal Seas featuring the marine creatures that occupy our coastal waters, and the fight to protect it.
Water Life on Amazon Prime
A visual journey into our water ecosystems, Water Life provides insight into how water shapes our landscape and provides resources and habitat for an extraordinary array of species. While the whole docu-series is worth a watch, don’t miss Episodes 4, 5, & 6 which gives an up-close perspective of the universe that occupies our rivers, wetlands, and estuaries.
American Experience: The Swamp on Amazon Prime
While featuring the Florida Everglades, The Swamp tells the dramatic story of humanity’s attempts to conquer Florida’s wetlands – a story similar to our own here in Houston. Through compelling cinematography, we explore the repeated efforts to transform nature into a human’s idea of urban paradise, ultimately leading to a passionate campaign to preserve America’s largest wetland system.
We look forward to seeing you all again – whether on the water at Back the Bayous or at our annual Folks ‘N Oysters celebration. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and get outside!